Inside maternity bags from around the world

Two weeks ago I packed my hospital bag … and another bag for the new baby. I largely followed the Doctor & Daughter kit list: essentials such as toothbrush, breast pads, nappies, etc and a few luxuries including my iPad, chocolate bars and my eye mask.

My hospital bag: This lot was just for the baby…

It was quite an eye-opener therefore to come across a project by international charity WaterAid unveiling what women from around the globe pack in their maternity bags.

Many of the items they’re taking with them to hospital are life-savers rather than luxuries. Some of the mothers interviewed by WaterAid couldn’t rely on the hospital having clean water, sanitation and hygienic conditions during their labour and packed accordingly.

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Ellen Phiri, 23, maternity bag contents: torch, black plastic sheet, razor blade, string, 200 Malawian Kwacha note and three large sarongs. Simulemba Health Centre, Malawi, 2015. (WaterAid/ Jenny Lewis)


Inside the maternity bag of 23-year-old Ellen, who lives in Malawi, there is a razor blade which midwives use to cut the umbilical cord.

Ellen also had to pack her own plastic sheet for the delivery bed in order to help maintain personal hygiene, as there is no clean water at the health centre to clean the beds between births.

It’s a similar story for 27-year-old Hazel at the health centre in Hamakando village, Zambia. She explains she too has to take a plastic sheet for the bed.

“We have a borehole at the clinic but there is no running water in the maternity ward,” she says.

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Hazel Shandumba’s maternity bag contents: baby blanket, cotton wool, sarong, baby suit, napkins, dish and polythene roll. Hamangaga, Zambia, 2015. (WaterAid/ Chileshe Chanda)

The maternity bags project is part of WaterAid’s Deliver Life appeal, which aims to reach 130,000 mums and their families around the world this winter with safe water. Every pound donated to WaterAid’s Deliver Life appeal until 10th February will be doubled by the UK Government – meaning WaterAid can help twice as many mothers and babies stay safe and well.

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Agnes Noti, 22, in the labour ward at Kiomboi Hospital, Iramba, Tanzania, 2015. (WaterAid/ Anna Kari)


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Agnes’s  maternity bag contents: clothes for the baby, socks, basin, flask, tea, at Kiomboi Hospital, Iramba, Tanzania, 2015. (WaterAid/ Anna Kari)

Every minute a newborn baby dies from infection caused by a lack of safe water and an unclean environment.

Through the Deliver Life appeal, WaterAid wants to ensure healthcare facilities have access to clean water and have adequate toilets and are committed to good hygiene practice and promotion.

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Deanna Neiers, maternity bag contents: music player, coconut oil, lavender oil, arnica gel, snacks, nursing bra and pads, nursing pillow, clothes, swaddle, onesie, hat. New York City, USA, 2015. (WaterAid/ Deanna Neiers)
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Katy Shaw’s, 31, maternity bags contents: toileteries, snacks, nappies, het, socks, mittens, clothes and swaddles for the baby, clothes for her, night dresses, maternity underwear, maternity pads nursing pads, massage oils. Melbourne, Australia, 2015. (WaterAid/ James Grant)
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